To commemorate his time with the Big Red Band of Kosciusko and time he spent in Skipworth auditorium, Jimmy Otts of Madison purchased two old auditorium chairs and donated to the building’s renovations.
“I knew I wanted to make a donation to the Skipworth Center, and I also wanted to have a memory of Kosciusko, being in band, and the auditorium that I spent many of my days in," Jimmy Otts said.
Otts was born in Dekalb and moved to Kosciusko at a very young age. His first introduction to music was at Westside Elementary from music teacher Marianne Myers.
Otts said he always had a love for music and even sang in the children’s choir at First Baptist Church.
As a child, he went to the Skipworth auditorium to see plays, such as “Carousel” and “Damn Yankees.” As a result, Otts became very interested in the arts, music and singing.
In the sixth grade, Otts was introduced to the Big Red Band by Mickey Grove, and he learned to play the saxophone.
During his childhood, his father, Bobby Otts, loved the saxophonist Boots Randolph. Otts was enthusiastic about playing the same instrument as his father’s favorite musician.
Not only was Jimmy Otts in the Big Red Band, but his sister, Pam Otts Reynolds, was also. Otts said he and his sister practiced their instruments at home and would close the door to their bedrooms so they would not disturb their parents.
“She and I were both very competitive,” Otts said. “She graduated in 1975, so we were not in the band at the same time.”
Otts was the junior high drum major, and then in his first year of high school band he was assistant drum major to Tim Spears.
As assistant drum major, he had responsibilities for the flag and color guard. Then, Otts tried out to become the next Big Red Band drum major.
“Mr. Grove encouraged me to try out, and he gave me a better appreciation for music,” he said.
Otts was the junior high drum major from 1975 to 1976, assistant drum major and the drum major of the Big Red Band from 1977 to 1980. He said these roles taught him important skills, such as leadership, teamwork and discipline.
As a result of playing in the band, Otts was also exposed to travel. He traveled to the Midwest with the Big Red Band, in addition to other states he would never have visited otherwise.
“The band definitely opened me up to travel,” he said. “I have great memories of growing up in Kosciusko and being in the band.”
After graduating from Kosciusko High School as valedictorian of his class in 1980, Otts was accepted to Millsaps College.
“Since Millsaps didn’t have a band, I became a member of the Millsaps Singers, and the Troubadours.”
Otts received a degree in chemistry and furthered his education with a degree in medical technology.
He now lives in Madison and works for Siemens Healthcare Diagnostics Inc., where he sells medical equipment.
Otts saw a post on Facebook that said the old Skipworth auditorium chairs would be available for the public to purchase. He felt like this would be the perfect opportunity to pick up a few of the old chairs as memorabilia and donate new chairs.
He said that he and his sister wondered how long the original chairs had been in the auditorium, and Otts couldn't help but laugh when he found old pieces of gum stuck to the original chairs.
Otts plans to refurbish the old auditorium chairs and use them as outdoor seating. While on his stop to pick up the chairs, he also donated two new chairs: one in honor of his sister Pam Otts Reynolds and one in memory of his late sister-in-law Brenda Lawrence Otts.
He also got the chance to look inside the auditorium to see some of the renovations being done.
“I think it looked great, and I think it will bring focus back to the town,” Otts commented on the Skipworth Performing Art Center renovations.